Fantasy owners in leagues that play through Week 17 always have the same question: Which teams will be trying?
Only one playoff-bound team, Kansas City, has nothing to play for. The Chiefs are locked into the AFC's fifth seed, and it doesn't sound like they'll be going all out. Coincidentally, only the Chiefs' opponent, San Diego, is still in the playoff hunt and might know its fate before it even takes the field. Every other team still in postseason contention will have to prepare/play like it has to win in order to move up in seeding or make the playoffs in general.
Of course, there are 14 teams that are already eliminated from the postseason, and it's impossible to know which squads have mentally packed it in and which teams will fight until the end. You'll get a good idea on Sunday morning when you see which teams deactivate players because of nagging injuries. Either way, Week 17 is always a gamble.
We'll try to highlight some of the key injuries/possibilities while we go over important numbers to know about every game. We'll also provide a stud, sleeper, stumbler or injury concern to watch for with a brief explanation why. Note that the “studs” are guys who are either better than most owners realize or established stars who owners might be foolishly thinking about benching.
Rams at Seahawks
Stat to know: Both the Seahawks' (No. 1) and the Rams' (No. 10) D/STs rank in the top 10 in average fantasy points per game (FPPG) over the past four weeks. During that span, the Seahawks have been allowing 7.5 FPPG and the Rams have been allowing 10.5. Both D/STs are in play this week.
Stumbler: QB Russell Wilson (Rams have allowed more than 19.1 fantasy points to a QB just twice since Week 3.)
Lions at Vikings
Stat to know: With both Adrian Peterson (foot, groin) and Calvin Johnson (knee) hobbled, this could be a real “backup bowl” for fantasy owners. While Matt Asiata could get Peterson's carries and any of Kevin Ogletree, Nate Burleson and Kris Durham could see Johnson's targets, fantasy owners should really only count on two guys from this one: Cordarrelle Patterson (13.3 FPPG over his past four contests) and Joique Bell (15.4 FPPG over his past four). Reggie Bush, Matthew Stafford and Greg Jennings are still in play, too.
Sleeper: Lions' D/ST (11.25 FPPG over the past four weeks.)
Browns at Steelers
Stat to know: The Steelers have allowed at least one back to put up double-digit fantasy points in each of the past three games. Edwin Baker should get plenty of touches for the Browns, giving him a good chance to make it four in a row against Pittsburgh.
Injury: WR Emmanuel Sanders, knee (If active, Sanders is a good sleeper since he's scored in four of the past five games and had 11.2 fantasy points against Cleveland in Week 12.)
Redskins at Giants
Stat to know: Andre Brown is expected to play despite suffering a concussion last week. He'd be a safe start against a Washington defense allowing the third-most FPPG to RBs (23). Brown and Peyton Hillis (questionable, concussion) combined for 22.9 points against Washington in Week 13.
Stud: RB Alfred Morris (Giants have allowed at least 10.7 fantasy points to starting RBs in each of the past seven games.)
Buccaneers at Saints
Stat to know: The Saints have allowed at least one rushing touchdown to an RB in six of the past nine games, including each of the past two. Bobby Rainey has been on a somewhat similar pattern, rushing for a score in four of the past seven games. Rainey is an all-or-nothing player, but he gets a lot of touches (average of 21.2 since taking over as a starter) and has a decent matchup. He's still an RB2.
Stumbler: TE Tim Wright (Saints rank 24th in FPPG allowed to TEs.)
Bills at Patriots
Stat to know: Buffalo's run defense had been a turnstile before shutting down the Dolphins in Week 16. Even with Shane Vereen nursing a sore groin, look for New England to wear down the Bills with LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley. When these teams met all the way back in Week 1, both Ridley (5.1) and Vereen (7.2) averaged more than five yards per carry.
Stumbler: RB C.J. Spiller (Pats have held RBs to an average of 15.2 FPPG over the past three weeks; Fred Jackson is more likely to score than Spiller.)
Jets at Dolphins
Stat to know: The Dolphins' RB situation has been a mess virtually all season, but there could be some sleeper value for either Daniel Thomas or Lamar Miller this week. The Jets' mighty run defense has actually allowed an average of 19.5 FPPG to starting RBs over the past three weeks. Thomas and Miller are both risky, but at least they have upside.
Stumbler: Dolphins' D/ST (Jets have allowed three or fewer fantasy points to D/STs in two of their past three games.)
Jaguars at Colts
Stat to know: It's unclear just how much the Colts are going to try to move up in the AFC playoff pecking order, but we should see their starters for the majority of the game. If so, that means Andrew Luck has potential bounce-back value against a Jaguars' defense allowing the fifth-most FPPG to QBs.
Sleeper: TE Coby Fleener (Jaguars allowing third-most FPPG to TEs.)
Texans at Titans
Stat to know: We could see a lot of backups in this one, and that starts in the Texans' backfield, where Jonathan Grimes will start and likely handle most of the carries. With the Titans allowing the fourth-most FPPG to RBs (22.7), Grimes could be in line for a big day.
Sleeper: TE Ryan Griffin (Titans tied for eighth-most FPPG allowed to TEs.)
Ravens at Bengals
Stat to know: The Ravens have only allowed four QBs to score more than the 19.2 fantasy points Andy Dalton put up against in them in Week 10, but it's worth noting that two of those instances have come in the past four games. Dalton's hot streak (average of 33 FPPG over the past three weeks) could easily continue.
Stumbler: RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (Ravens have allowed just six rushing TDs to RBs all season.)
Packers at Bears
Stat to know: Aaron Rodgers (collarbone) will return for this game, and Randall Cobb (leg) is also expected back. More good news: Eddie Lacy (ankle) is preparing to start, as well. Fantasy owners should go all-in with their Packers against a Bears' defense allowing 27.7 points per game (fifth most).
Sleeper: TE Martellus Bennett (Packers allowing fourth-most FPPG to TEs.)
Panthers at Falcons
Stat to know: DeAngelo Williams is always a risky start because he gets the bulk of his points on big plays, but he continues to lead the Panthers in RB touches. With the Falcons allowing the seventh-most FPPG to RBs (20.6), Williams has RB2 upside.
Sleeper: WR Brandon LaFell (Steve Smith out; Falcons allowing seventh-most FPPG to WRs.)
Chiefs at Chargers
Stat to know: Neither team could have anything to play for in this one, but the Chiefs are much more likely to rest their starters. That could mean extensive action for Kansas City RBs Knile Davis and Cyrus Gray. However, because San Diego ranks just 22nd in FPPG allowed to RBs, both Davis and Gray are risky fantasy starts.
Stud: QB Philip Rivers (likely facing a lot of Kansas City's second stringers.)
49ers at Cardinals
Stat to know: It could be a long day for both Rashard Mendenhall and Andre Ellington. The 49ers are allowing just 3.9 yards per carry and 30.2 receiving yards per game to RBs. Overall, they're 24th in FPPG allowed to backs.
Stud: TE Vernon Davis (Cardinals allowing league-high 14.1 FPPG to TEs.)
Broncos at Raiders
Stat to know: The loss of pass-rusher Von Miller definitely hurts the Broncos' defense, but they're still in play for fantasy owners against a Raiders' team allowing the fourth-most FPPG to D/STs (8.4).
Sleeper: WR Andre Holmes (Averaging 8.25 targets over past four games; Broncos allowing 10th-most FPPG to WRs.)
Eagles at Cowboys
Stat to Know: Philadelphia's D/ST is tied for seventh in FPPG over the past four weeks (10.5). With Kyle Orton likely under center, there could be more mistakes for Dallas' offense. Consider the Eagles a solid sleeper.
Stud: WR Dez Bryant (Eagles allowing most FPPG to WRs.)